From The Sunday Times, October 11 2009 © Dara Flynn
It was obvious from the wares on display at both the big furniture fairs this year that a new industrial revolution is under way. Industrial chic — design influenced by factories, coal pits and engine rooms — is going full-steam ahead, but modern-day Luddites needn’t worry. This trend isn’t about turning a steam engine into a dining table. It’s all about rawness — a bare-knuckled sense of style with very little flourish that more of us are injecting into our design schemes a little at a time.
The industrial look isn’t as masculine as it sounds, either. It’s gender-neutral, with an emphasis on well-designed objects that mimic now-defunct work tools, although textiles such as linen and canvas marry perfectly with the look. If proof were needed that industrial chic fascinates, many cutting-edge designers have turned their attention to producing pieces made from stark, raw materials. The trend is seeping through strongest in lighting.
Industrial-look lighting has been around for a while — we’re all familiar with fishermen’s lamps for kitchens and rise-and-fall mock oil lamps for dining rooms — but the latest designs are like replicas of something straight from the factory floor. Cages, used on industrial lighting since the late 19th century to protect precious light bulbs, are becoming a hallmark of lighting design.
Dare Studio, run by the young designer Sean Dare, showcased its cage lights at last month’s 100% Design in London. See above and below. I met Sean at the show and the model is a mate of a mate and she's a Storm model and did this shoot for him for free! I think it works really well, even though I don't normally agree with putting laydeez next to furniture.
Made of laser-cut aluminium, each one is powder-coated in colours such as traffic red, graphite grey and sulphur yellow and can be used as a pendant, lamp base or a free-standing lamp. The small version costs ¤259 and the large costs ¤237. Dare also produces the Fujiya lamps, comic floorlamps which resemble a person with a workman’s bucket on their head.
Diesel, the Italian jeans maker, has had industrial-inspired fashion sewn up for years and it has now teamed up with Foscarini, the Italian lighting designers. The range includes a half dozen different styles of cage light. The large suspended version, (available in white, black and green) was inspired by lamps used by miners and costs ¤561. The Tavolo, a table version, is a caged light that resembles a large microphone (¤390 in either black or white) and has the versatility of any building-site lamp, as it can be hung over the side of a table, suspended from the ceiling or merely left on the floor.
Foscarini, without Diesel’s help, has produced its own range with a more glamorous use of industrial materials. The Allegro, a sculptural light made from lacquered aluminium rods, comes in three types: the Assai, with gold pipes (¤2,100), the Vivace in maroon (¤1,552) and the Ritmico in black (¤1,496). Foscarini and the Successful Living by Diesel range are available from Minima in Dublin 2.
Furniture designers are also getting ideas from dormant building sites. The wacky designer brains that make up Established & Sons are no exception. This year’s collection has included Bricks and Mortar — a range of sofas, armchairs and poufs upholstered in a grey brick or redbrick pattern. Jasper Morrison has come up with his Crate series — an assortment of furniture items made from the same material as packing crates.
Design House Stockholm has the best-selling Block Lamp, designed by Harri Koskinen in 1996, with its light source set inside a glass brick, tinted in red, white, black (¤169) or amber (¤195). It also produces a series of silver and gold work lamps (¤145).
Even smaller design studios have tapped into the allure of metal and concrete and wood palettes. Unleaded, an Irish design team, work with concrete and steel to make fresh, trendy lights with a playful twist. Their B-Con light (¤520) for example, leans dramatically by rolling on its base to mimic a maritime buoy.
Nina Tolstrup, the Danish hand behind the UK-based Studiomama, created the Palett project — seats, stools and lamps made from industrial forklift palettes. Buyers can purchase the instructions to make their chair or lamp from the website for just ¤11.
The studio also produces a set of pewter bowls with a brightly-sprayed interior, which remind the user of the tops of freshly-opened paint pots and provide an inexpensive and lightweight way to try the industrial look a little at a time.